My Grandma was “green” long before Kermit was a tadpole. She cleaned houses for a living and walked to all her jobs. She never owned a car; never even got a driver’s license. Her carbon footprint was far smaller then her real one, the one she left all over Elmhurst, Illinois with those practical, black, leather shoes of hers.
Her name even had a green, “friend of wildlife” ring to it: Grandma Moos was 33 years old when the stock market crashed – the great depression taught her to recycle wayyy before the word “green” came to mean “environmentally friendly.”
She cut frayed worn-out wool coats into long ribbons, sewed the strips into tubes and wove them into throw rugs. Burnt-out light bulbs were never thrown away – Grandma Moos shoved them into socks to make the fabric stiffer. You know, so she could darn holes. Because, of course, she neverthrew out a pair of socks! She saved old nylons and hose, too, using these throwaways as stuffing for her hand-sewn pillows.
The list goes on and on. Empty wooden spools of thread were strung on old shoelaces for babies in the family to play with. Used wrapping paper was pressed with a cool iron, then reused. And reused. And reused. Vegetable and fruit crates? They were covered with padding (made from those worn-out nylons I told you about) and cloth, transformed into baskets for our dolls.
Grandma Moos died in 1990, but her green spirit lives on. Especially at Christmas. She left 11 grandchildren, and now many of my siblings and cousins are grandparents, too. – buying Christmas presents for everyone is pretty much out of the question. So we pick names instead. But here’s the rub: you have to make a gift for the person you choose.
New babies press handprints into clay wall hangings, cousins stuff homemade pillows for gifts, pinecones collected in backyards are magically transformed into Christmas ornaments –and back-scratchers!
I get compliments on the earrings my niece Jennifer made me every time I wear them. Every night I cuddle on the couch under an afghan my sister Cheryl crocheted. Not every gift is so treasured, though. Example: Last Christmas Mike chose our nephew Ben, A Cub fan. Mike covered an old pin with white paper, wrote the letters “sh” onto it with a magic marker, and presented it to Ben with a Cub shirt, the one that boldly announces IT’S GONNA HAPPEN. “Wear the shirt as is during the season, “mike wrote in the instruction form he put together for Ben. “And then attach the “sh” pin in front of the first word during the playoffs.” Still scratching your head trying to figure out what cursed the Cubs this year? Now you know. It was Mike Knezovich.
Some family members get into a groove – one brother-in law is a hunter, so every year he has his catch made into a deerhide wallet, or a deerhide make-up bag, or deerhide gloves. My brother Doug, a jazz trombonist, always writes a song for the person he chooses. Last year I was the lucky one – you can hear Doug performing “Beth, Betha, Best” with his band by clicking the “play” arrow/button below. You’ll hear a little musician talk before the song begins, so be patient.
Doug’s daughter (my niece) Marsha Boyer wrote an article about our Christmas tradition — “Cousin Pen Pal Kit” appears in this month’s issue of Family fun Magazine.
Grant picked his 11-year-old cousin, Anita, who lives three hours away, and whom he had seen only a few times. At the time, Grant wasn’t particularly interested in practicing his writing in school, so we came up with the idea to make a pen pal kit for his cousin.
Marsha’s article describes her 7-year-old son Grant making personalized stationery, including that in a package with a pen, pre-addressed envelopes, postage stamps, a picture of Grant with his bio, his age, grade, and his favorite things to do.
We figured the kit would make writing fun and be a great way for him to get to know Anita….the cousins wrote letters back and forth regularly (well, regularly for two youngsters). Grant liked to send drawings, Anita decorated her letters with stickers. Anita’s mom, my cousin, was happy to see her daughter writing more. Most of all, Grant and Anita loved getting their own mail.
We’re all delighted to add Marsha to the growing list of published writers in the family, and of course we’re tickled to have our homemade Christmas ritual touted in a national magazine. I’d gush more about all this, but I’ve gotta get away from this computer keyboard – I haven’t finished making this year’s gift yet!